1993 Volvo 940 Turbo

1993 Volvo 940 Turbo
This old 940 Turbo is Mint!

Saturday, October 29, 2011

New Struts and Mounts Rattling on Volvo 240 Wagon- Fix the Problem Easily.

I had written in a previous post that I was about to do some suspension work on my 1992 Volvo 240 Wagon. I just finished the front struts (inserts) and mounts and I wanted to share some information about the rattling noise you may experience if you use KYB #365006 struts with KYB SM5050 strut mounts on your Volvo 240.
Included in this job was replacing the lower ball joints, stabilizer bar bushings, strut inserts and mounts, stabilizer bar links, and rear shocks. The tie rod end are ok but given that I have some from the 940 Turbo, I'll likely just put those on. In case you didn't know, the tie rod ends for the 940 also fit the 240; for example, part #1630396 is made by a few manufacturers and fit both models of cars, as does part # ES2161R (also made by more than a couple of manufacturers including Moog).

So after I had installed the struts and mounts and got the car back down, I gave the new suspension a little test by pushing down on the fenders a few times; this is when I saw that the bolt on top of the strut was making a "clunking" sound against the strut mount. There was free play between the mount bushing and the top nut, regardless of how tight it was. I thought at first that I may have done something incorrectly, so I double checked everything and learned that the problem wasn't the mechanic (me), but the parts.

The top strut nut was down as far as it could possible go. The solution? I put two thick, hard washers (Grade 8 or 10.9 in metric) under the top strut nut. The washers that I used were 16mm and the fit is perfect. This fix may not be needed with every install, but it's a sound practice that will last indefinitely as long as you use a hard washer. A cheaper, Grade 5 or 8,8 in metric may or may not wear faster. given that it's softer steel and automobiles are always built using grade 8 standard or 10.9 metric hardware.

By the way, I just drove the 1992 240 Wagon 9 hours each way to Idaho at an average speed of 75 MPH without even the slightest problem, and I got 25 MPG.

Good luck on your next repair!

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

700 and 900 Series A/C Switch

Hi everyone.
One problem that I've encountered on both of our 940 Turbo Volvos (1993 and 1994) is the air conditioning control switch. I think that it's really important to point this out because I'm sure that I can help someone save a bunch of money from an expensive mis-diagnosis.
Steve, the ex-owner of Drive for Life Volvo Saab in Las Vegas is the one that told me about this. What happens is that the soldered connection behind the "AC Off"or "AC ON" switch (depending on the year) fails; the solder breaks and so the switch doesn't work. It typically goes intermittently, where once in a while it will work until there is never a connection.
This can be mis-diagnosed by anyone who is not formally trained or experienced with Volvos so beware! You may be told that you need a compressor, drier, condensor...NO. Have your mechanic check the switch first if there is no A/C clutch engagement when the switch is pressed. You can check the switch if you can reach under the dash and find the wires, connect your voltage meter to each of the wires and see if there's a change in continuity when the switch pressed. Your mechanic can either take it out and solder it for around $120.00-$180.00, or replace the panel.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Options for Volvo Car Parts, Recommendations

Hello everyone.
I'd like to share my opinions on some of the various auto parts stores that I've come to learn about and use over the years. We can all agree that there are now several options for online Volvo car parts shopping and many of these internet stores have their own strengths and weaknesses. I've tried several different stores for my Volvos and my 1990 Mitsubishi Montero, and I have a method that I use when shopping for car parts that seems to work in saving me time and money.

I've identified a short list of stores that I now buy my Volvo parts from (see below) and each has been selected because they came through at one time or another when others couldn't. If you're a seasoned online car parts shopper, you likely have your own way of shopping for parts, but here's what I do.

I always check 3 stores at a time and compare availability, options, and prices. Never does the same store always have the best deal! One day JC Whitney may have your part at the best price, and next time it could be Auto Parts Warehouse, 123 Autoparts, or even IPD (never the best price, but good performance parts).

For example, right now I'm looking for brake calipers, pads, and maybe rotors and tires. Some stores carry only 1-2 options for the Volvo 240 wagon calipers and pads, and some have as many as 4 different options. You can buy natural pads, ceramic pads, separate calipers and pads, semi-loaded calipers (comes with hardware ready to install), fully-loaded calipers and pads (yes, like plug n' play; just install all in one piece). Brands for calipers include A1 Cardone, "Replacement", Centric, Bendix, Beck Arnley, reTech, TRW, Raybestos, and Nastra, and the list for pads is longer.

I decide which parts I'm going to buy, and then factor in shipping and delivery times. Is it worth waiting an additional 5-7 days to save $5.00; not for me. If you need several different parts, you'll likely get them all from more than one store. In fact, I can't remember when I last bought several parts all at one store.

Here's a summary of what I can tell you about stores that I buy from. I AM NOT BIAS IN ANY WAY; I am an affiliate for only some of these stores. I am providing information regardless of where you decide to buy.

TireRack.com: These guys have changed the paradigm for tire shopping and they have a huge selection of tires for Volvo cars and many popular replacement and maintenance parts (not many for Volvo). They used to be known for only having a good tire selection at low prices, but that has changed. With their impressive network of local installers everywhere, you can buy your tires (and other parts) at a great price and have the tires delivered to where you'll them installed. You can then also get road hazard insurance and any options that you'd like. I used to only shop at Discount Tire because they have good prices and outstanding customer service, but these guys got the business for my last four Perelli tires. The selection at Tire Rack in unbelievable! They also provide great reviews and ratings on almost everything that they sell; you cannot go wrong here. Highly recommended. Here's a link to their current rebate programs.
Special Offers: Save on quality tires with these manufacturer's promotions from Tire Rack.

Auto Parts Warehouse: This is a really good store. I've found that compared to 123AutoParts, JC Whitney, Checker Auto (Reilly), PartsGeek, and the list goes on, these guys always have more options in more price points ranging form economy to premium, not only for Volvo parts, but also for my Montero and Mazda CX-9. You can get the same premium Volvo parts here for your 200, 700, and 900 series Volvo that you'd find anywhere without exception, the prices are very competitive, and shipping is fair and fast as they ship from California. Buy once and you'll be hooked. Highly recommended. Free Shipping On All Orders Over $50 From AutoPartsWarehouse.com!

IPD USA- Anyone who has been upgrading their Volvo knows of IPD; they carry a decent offering of performance aftermarket parts and they specialize in steering and suspension, some brakes, Volvo-specific tools, and gadgets. The upside is that they have proprietary parts like their own brand of sway bars, tie rods,   suspension coils, etc, and they are designed to make your car perform better. They also have very good poly mounts, grommets, and bushings; nice. The downside is pricing and options. When it comes to maintenance parts (brakes, exhaust, water pumps, A/C, interior trim, body parts), forget it; they have nothing to offer. For the Volvo 240 for example, they have one caliper and 1 rotor for front and back. Auto Parts Warehouse still wins. Not an affiliate, but highly recommended for bushings and proprietary sway bars.

JC Whitney  These guys have a decent selection and ok prices. I'd say that their niche is in general, universal  aftermarket parts and they do have a lot to offer for American and everyday cars. One of their strengths is that they don't sell junk. They're big on brands like Wagner, Raybestos, Beck Arnley, etc, so you typically won't find the cheap junk here at all, and they have a great no-questions-asked return policy. This is a much bigger company than most and they are a standout for excellent service. Highly recommended. Awesome Autumn Deal:  10% off on orders $99n or more! Coupon code: JCWFALL (valid till 10/31/11)

Rock Auto.com: I like this store for its uniqueness and broad offerings. They typically have just as much selection as Auto Parts Warehouse, and they have great deals on some parts. They have a unique option where you can pay the normal price and get the manufacturer's warranty, pay 30-40% less and get only 30 days, or pay even less but "No Returns". They're located in Wisconsin so shipping takes a long time to the west. They also ship from several warehouses but they don't stock all parts in each. For example, if you order 3 parts, one may come from "Warehouse A", one from "Warehouse B", and one from "Warehouse C"; you pay separate shipping for each one. I've also had two mis-picks where I received the wrong parts. Is it worth the wait to send back a pair of brake pads 2500 miles and wait for the replacements? No.
So, great deals on Volvo parts at times, but there are trade offs. I'd use these guys if they had a great deal on a high-cost part and I wasn't in a hurry (if you're in the west). Recommended somewhat.

123 Auto Parts.com: Their site reminds me of PartsTrain.com and Auto Parts Warehouse, but they aren't the same at all. In regards to Volvo parts, this store is very good for generic parts like mats, gauges, hoses, fuses, after market cosmetic stuff, and general maintenance parts. They don't have a big selection for older Volvos, but more for newer Volvos. Their strength is in service and pricing; I've bought here twice and had a good experiences. The upside here may be for east coast customers as these guys are in Deleware. They're definitely a good back up to my favorite stores, but I live in Las Vegas and typically like to get my parts faster. If I lived on the east coast I'd use them more often. Highly recommended. Discount Car Parts 

AdvanceAutoParts.comThis an impressive online and brick and mortar store. As such, their strength is their broad offerings in some product groups. For example, they have nine (9) different options for 1994 Volvo 940 Turbo brake rotors! That's impressive and they're all of decent quality. Compare that to Checker Auto (Reilly) and Auto Zone and they blow them away. Their prices are good too, but the great thing about this is that you can buy online, check inventory, have it shipped either to the store or to your house, and they have stores in most states in the midwest and the east. We don't have them out west but if we did, they may really hurt Auto Zone, who has a smallest selection for Volvos and likely then for other imports. I once found a caliper here for my Montero. Highly recommended, especially for those in the east, midwest, and parts of the south.  Great Deals at AdvanceAutoParts.com!

That's all for today; please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences. I am always eager to learn of better ways to get things done so please don't be shy and post your knowledge or ask questions!
Have a great day.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Buying a Car Online That's Away from Home

The other day I posted some very general advice in regards to buying a car online and I'd like to elaborate a little more on my experiences. Maybe if I share why I now shop for cars online some people may gain some useful information. I have bought six used vehicles online over the past 11 years. Most of the cars have been used Volvos and they were all purchased for our own personal use; I am not a car dealer and I don't buy cars to sell them.

The cars that I've bought online are: 1993 Volvo 940 Turbo, 1994 Volvo 940 Turbo, 2004 Volvo XC70, 1992 Volvo 240 Wagon, 2000 Mitsubishi Montero Sport, and a 2008 Mazda CX-9. Although the initial plan is to keep every car indefinitely, they end up cycling through the family and some leave for one reason or another. One reason why I've bought so many cars is because I've managed to get great deals! If you know what you're looking for, there is no better place to have access to cars around the country. While most are just average cars that will likely need more repair than you'd like, just keep looking until you find the right one. 

For me it's a combination of few previous owners (no more than two), condition of the car, and of course price. I've found that independent car dealers who are one-man businesses don't need the same profit as a typical brick and mortar car dealer, so they can sell at a better price. I look for those with high feedback scores, no legal disputes, and a history of specializing in excellent used cars only. Some have their own garage or they have a preferred mechanic that does a thorough inspection and  do the required repairs before they list the car, and some offer money back guarantees.

I also have two kids that drive (third one will be in two years) and I want them to have cars that are safe,   don't cost me too much to fix, and don't have me fixing them too often. I may be bias but I have a very short list of cars that I know have reputations for reliability, easy to find parts for (I use these guys regularly), and are easy to fix; I look forward to trying some new rides in the future but for now I'm sticking with my tried and true work horses.  

I had mentioned having the car inspected in my previous post. While some cars may not need to be inspected, many do. Pull up Craigslist for the area in which the car is located and search for "Mobile mechanics", or "mobile car repair". This is where you'll find your mechanic who will go to the car and inspect it for you! I had my mechanic email me pictures along with a detailed list of what's bad and what's good. Sure it costs about $150-$200 for a thorough inspection but it's worth it.

If you decide to buy the car, you'll either have to go get it, or have it hauled in by a car hauling company. This is a real pain in the neck!! BEWARE- car hauling companies will haunt you for weeks if you submit your information to a universal brokerage site that sends out your request to about 20-30 companies. 
I highly recommend that you start at the link below and look up a select few haulers yourself and call them directly. This is an unbiased site with legitimate ratings and it's free.

I'll gladly answer any and all questions if I can!

Car Parts stores reviews and comparisons being posted later today.

Have a great day.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

1992 Volvo 240 Wagon Joins the Family

Well, I haven't been keeping this blog up to date and I apologize for that. Something that I should have mentioned in my first post is that I do almost all my own repairs on my Volvos. Here's what has transpired since my first post last year:

I found a 1992 Volvo 240 Wagon on eBay; it was in Baltimore, MD (I'm in Las Vegas). It has 225,000 miles, one previous owner, and cost me $2055, $1000 shipping, and $180 for a 3-hour, thorough inspection; I feel that $3235 is a good deal for this car. She's not a beauty contest winner but a solid car. I had it inspected by a mechanic in Baltimore who specialized in Swedish cars like Volvo and Saab. There isn't even one spec of rust anywhere and the panels, doors, fenders are as solid as new...yes, like an armored car; heavy, solid steel. Because this car is almost all original original belts, calipers, struts, etc), I'm going to replace the struts, strut mounts, all undercarriage bushings, sway bar, tires, pads, calipers, and rotors. This sounds like a lot of work but it's not if you know how to do it; these cars are easy to work on.

Tomorrow, I'll write about where to get your parts and why; I've been buying parts for my vehicles online for about 10 years and I now know who's the most reliable and who has the best selection for specific cars and applications. I DO have a couple of great tips for you, that you likely don't know about.

Here's a bit of advice that you may want to consider when buying a car online that is away from home.
Of course, first ensure that the seller has a good reputation on eBay or AutoTrader (if he is a dealer); many private sellers also have a good rating on eBay that they want to uphold. I never buy a car without reviewing the complete vehicle history (like Carfax), and prefer to buy them with no more than one previous owner. Most Volvo 700 or 900 series cars in very good to excellent condition have only had one or two owners.

Have the car inspected! Pull up Craigslist for the area in which the car is located. Search for "Mobile mechanics", or "mobile car repair". This is where you'll find your mechanic who will go to the car and inspect it for you! I had my mechanic email me pictures, a detailed list of what's bad and what's good. Sure it costs about $150-$200 for a thorough inspection but it's worth it.

The other cars; here's their status:

1994 940 Turbo (the one that was rear-ended)- The car passed inspection and the registration was renewed without any problems, regardless of the fact that it had a trunk and door that wouldn't fully close. I've replaced the front and rear pads, a fuel pump, and a section of rusted out exhaust pipe, and the kid is now set for another several months of trouble-free driving.

1993 940 Turbo- This car has been great. The fuel pump went out and I had our mechanic fix that because it happened 20 miles from home and we had the car towed to him. I also put $600 of new tires on it, replaced the dried out rear 6" x 9" speakers, and replaced the shocks and struts. Every time that I drive this car I am just amazed at great it handles and hauls butt! It's smooth, accelerates well, and just handles better than a much newer American or Japanese car would.

Now that I'm back I have a lot of great information to share. Tomorrow, I'll talk about where to get your parts and why; some stores are better at certain things. I can tell you about a little-known store that has great deals on car parts, that nobody else offers. have a great day.

Welcome to Volvo Stuff

Hello and welcome to my new blog!
This is my first blog so please be pateint as I learn and build this into something that will hopefully be of value to many of us Volvo lovers and also introduce these great cars to new followers. Let me tell you a bit about my history and how I came to be a true believer in the older Volvo cars that I now love and enjoy so much.
As a teenager in the 1970's, I had always admired the "boxy" look of the Volvos. While many people thought that  they looked "boring" or like an "old man's car", I thought that they had style and a look that expressed solid, safety, and built for all of the elements. I grew up in Canada and I'll never forget the time when I saw a 242 blow by us as we were stuck in the snow, and I thought, "...wow, what a cool car".

I finally bought my first Volvo in 2004; it was a 2004 XC70 Cross Country that had 10,000 miles on it. I never buy brand new cars, but prefer slightly used. Although the XC70 was fun to drive and great in the snow, it turned out to be quite problematic in the long run. It was disappointing to have to to replace headlight bulbs twice a year, like one would change transmission fluid on a North American car. Other problems included a bad fuel pump, at a cost of $980 installed (recalled on many models, not mine), leaking  main seal, transmission failure (twice), and radiator replacement, driver's side window falling off the track, both transaxles needing replacement, mass air flow sensor, etc.
At the advice of our Volvo mechanic, Steve at Vovlo Saab Drive for Life, we decided not to spend another dime on the car...that's right, a 2004 CX70 that I didn't want to fix. We followed Steve's advice and looked for an older rear wheel drive model that was reliable and built to last. This why I now own a couple of 940 Turbos, a 1993 and a 1994, and a 1992 240 wagon. I am once again a true believer in the "Workhorse" and "Swedish Brick".

I bought the 1994 Volvo 940 Turbo from its original owner in Redondo Beach, Ca. It had 139,000 miles on it and had been very well maintained. I had the timing belt replaced after it failed (no serious matter on these cars), and replaced the shifter linkage bushings, nothing else needed. After having spent so much time working on the XC70, I now know how to do much of my own work like replacing brake pads, struts, strut mounts, engine mounts, transmission mount bushings, tie rods, catalytic converter, and more.

On September 25, 2010, my 24 year-old son was driving the 1994 Volvo 940 Turbo and was stopped at a light as the rain came down somewhat heavily. When it rains here in Las Vegas, the roads become very slick, which is why the guy behind him couldn't stop and slammed into the rear end of the Volvo. Luckily, my son heard him trying to stop and braced himself as the Honda Accord slammed into him. My son said that when he got out to look at the damage, he thought for sure that the trunk was going to be "in the back seat". Much to his surprise, it really didn't look that bad...but the Honda was history and of course had to be towed.

The 1994 Volvo 940 Turbo was driven away, without even a broken light, nothing rubbing on the rear tire, no leaks, no broken tail lights, no noise, and nobody hurt (there were two passengers in the car). The trunk has to be tied down and one of the rear doors doesn't close, but it still drives perfectly! None of us can believe how this 940 took such a hit and is driveable...wow. The insurance company gave me more for the car than what I had paid for it, my son still drives it, and I went and bought an even nicer 1993 Volvo 940 Turbo with the money.
So I had to go find another 940 Turbo in the same excellent condition as this 1994. I was looking for a 940, 960, 760, 850, 240; whatever was in excellent condition and well-maintained. Did I ever get lucky! I found a white, 1993 Volvo 940 Turbo that had only one previous owner and only 139,200 miles on it! It came with 2 keys, all of the manuals, and the maintenance records.  I am absolutely blown away at how  perfectly clean this 940 is. The only thing that I can do to this car is keep it clean!

Well, that's all folks. Thanks for reading and please share your ideas, comments, and anything that you'd like to share about your Volvo experiences. I'll be adding as much as possible over the next several days.